Sunday, May 27, 2018

Awakening The Dreamer

                                                                                                written 19 May, 2018
                                                                                                published 26 May 18

            On Saturday, June 2nd, the Ukiah United Methodist Church and the Climate Action Group of Ukiah, will host a Pachamama Alliance Symposium, called "Awakening The Dreamer".  The event is free and will be held at the Methodist Church, 270 N. Pine St., Ukiah, beginning at noon until 4pm.
            The Pachamama Alliance website provides information about their origins.  Pachamama is the Incan Mother Earth goddess.  The Alliance began with the Achuar people who have lived for millennia on the borders of modern-day Ecuador and Peru.  In the mid 20th century, corporations began exploiting the Amazon Basin for its oil, unmoved by the irreplaceable ecological and cultural wealth.  By the early 1990s, Achuar shamans and elders were having dreams of imminent threat to their land and way of life.  From contact with neighboring tribes, they knew that oil companies were poisoning the rainforest, steadily moving closer to their home.
            The Achuar were influenced by an ancient prophecy shared by many Andean and Amazonian indigenous cultures about the Eagle and the Condor.  According to the prophecy, this is a moment in history when the Eagle (representing intellect and the mind) and the Condor (representing wisdom and the heart) must come together to ensure the survival of humankind.  Emboldened by this prophecy and the threat to their very existence, they decided to reach out to the modern world.
            In 1995, the Achuar leaders invited a group of North Americans to travel to visit the rainforest, and shared with this group the urgent threat to their lands and culture, as well as their vision for self-determination.  They requested cooperation to help "change the dream" of the modern world.  This change requires shifting from a culture of consumption to a culture that honors and sustains life.  A partnership was begun and the Pachamama Alliance was founded to carry out the commitment.
            Since 1997 the Alliance has worked in Ecuador's Amazon, defending the rights and homeland of the Achuar, who are committed to maintaining their stewardship of the rainforest, preserving this invaluable resource on behalf of all life.  Legal and technical expertise strengthened indigenous self-governance and preserved their lands and cultures, including mapping, land titling, and sustainable economic development.  This allowed the Achuar to gain full title to nearly 1.8 million acres of rainforest.  Based on this success, work expanded to other indigenous groups in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia, continuing to innovate education and advocacy initiatives.  More than 60 million acres of the Amazon Basin are now in permanent protection.
            With its wealth of natural resources, including minerals, metals, lumber and oil, Ecuador had been a lucrative colony since at least the mid-16th century.  When the Pachamama Alliance was founded, Ecuador was still not completely in control of its own resources.  International Monetary Fund and World Bank policies kept Ecuador in a debt cycle, for the benefit of industrialized countries.  In the face of these global economic and political pressures, halting individual projects is insufficient.  To fulfill the commitment to the Achuar and get to the root of the problem, the cultural story behind these policies must change. 
            The globalized economy consumes the planet for profit while driving species to extinction, perhaps even our own.  Religions preach hate in the name of God and justify wars.  Political systems impoverish millions to enrich a few.  The common factor is an assumption of separation between everyone and everything, and this cultural story drives the nightmare dream we currently inhabit.  
            Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh says "we are here to awaken from the illusion of separation", for the world is whole, and our fates are connected.  The picture of the Earth, taken from space, is the most widely reproduced image in history, calling to our deep awareness of connection 
            In 2005, after years of investigating how to effect a change of story, the Alliance launched a suite of learning workshops called "Awakening The Dreamer", sharing the values of ancient wisdom in addressing our modern crises and our personal role in bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just human presence on this planet.
            Please join us on Saturday, June 2nd, at noon.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Considering Mathematical Dimension

                                                                                                written 12 May, 2018
                                                                                                published 24 May 2018

            I was fortunate in my college experience.  I took calculus in high school, so the three years of math, as part of my engineering degree, were upper level subjects.  I retain little of the rigor of those subjects now, but still appreciate the concepts presented.  One of my favorite classes was "n" dimensional geometry, a study of the relationships between dimensions.  The dynamic between two specific dimensions is repeated between any other pair, without limit.
            Edwin Abbott wrote "Flatland" in 1884 to illuminate this kind of dimensional perspective.  Flatland is a two-dimensional world, inhabited by intelligent polygons and lines.  One of them, Square, dreams of going to a one-dimensional world of intelligent points, where he unsuccessfully tries to describe his world to them.  When he awakens, he is visited by Sphere, an intelligent being from a three-dimensional world.  Square can only see Sphere as a circle of varying sizes, as Sphere intersects Flatland.  At each level, the inhabitants doubt the reality of the higher dimensional being, as do four-dimensional materialists of today.
            I am particularly fascinated by the relationship between two-dimensional waves on the ocean surface, where the three-dimensional volumes of the ocean and atmosphere intersect.  We experience the world as four-dimensional space/time, so the relationship between two and three dimensions is within our perspective.  Each individual ocean wave peak has a unique location, distinct from any other wave peak, yet all arising from, and remaining part of, the same ocean.  This simultaneous individuality and unity is visually obvious and represents a shift in dimensional perspective.  It helps us imagine dimensional perspective shifts into higher dimensions.
            We are used to thinking of dimensions in terms of integer numbers, but fractal geometry introduces non-integer dimensionality.  A straight line is one-dimensional, but picture a very wiggly line, never crossing itself, drawn on a piece of paper.  If it wiggles enough, it could almost cover the entire surface.  This can be thought of as, say, a 1.8-dimensional object, more than a one-dimensional line, but less than a two-dimensional plane.  Similarly, a convoluted ocean surface could be thought of as, say, 2.3-dimensional, more than a flat plane, but less than a volume.  In this way, complexity within a given dimensionality begins to extend into the qualities of the next higher dimension.
            Some consider the brain as a consciousness transceiver, able to send and receive conscious thought, rather than containing them.  If we assume, for a moment, that consciousness is a quality of a higher dimension than material matter, the complexity of the human brain pushing into this higher dimension might explain how it can host self-awareness.
            Patterns in higher dimensions show up in the real world in many situations.  Complex non-linear systems with multiple feedback loops, like weather systems, are described as chaotic, sensitive to initial conditions, and difficult to predict.  However, they are quantifiable by stable patterns called strange attractors, existing in higher dimensions.
            British biologist Rupert Sheldrake proposes that higher dimensional patterns, which he calls morphogenetic fields, direct the growth of organisms as they shift from the few initially identical cells immediately after fertilization, to an array of differentiated cells constituting a mature, multi-celled organism.
            At the galactic scale, we have known for decades that black holes are areas of such intense gravitation that the shape of space/time is distorted, and energy and matter disappear once they cross an "event horizon".  The laws of physics break down in the singularity that is the center of a black hole.  Some speculate that space/time is ripped, opening a hole through higher dimensions.  Recent theoretical work suggests there may be reciprocal white holes, where energy is entering our universe.  The original Big Bang is considered one of these events.  Science fiction has long proposed warp speed travel over galactic distances utilizing wormholes, and folding space/time in a higher dimension.
            In a closed system, energy dissipates over time, for example, a cellphone battery running down.  But if a system is not closed, new energy can come into the system at any point, recharging the battery.  A system closed at one level of dimensions is open to higher levels.   We don't really know if our world is closed or open.

Monday, May 21, 2018

While We Are Distracted

                                                                                                written 5 May, 2018
                                                                                                published 12 May 18

            We are a third through the Trump presidency, a reality show of "All Trump All The Time".  The ongoing fascination and horror of the next tweet, the next fired official, the next scandal, or the next gross incompetence, is an exhausting distraction.  But Trump has consistently asserted that climate change is "fake news". 
            Climate change has been erased from official documents and websites; down the Orwellian memory hole.  No proposals for climate change research grants will be considered for funding.  Republican controlled states have prohibited the phrase "climate change".  But the real world is unaffected by foolish ravings of addicts in denial.
            For 800,000 years, through multiple ices ages, atmospheric CO2 concentrations ranged between 180-280 ppm (parts per million).  In the last ice age, New York state was covered with three miles of ice.  A 100 ppm increase in CO2 warmed the planet to our current climate, about twelve thousand years ago.  CO2 has risen another 120 ppm in 150 years, a level last seen 4 million years ago, when sea levels were 200' higher.  A few years ago, science discovered that 90% of this recent heating had entered the ocean, warming the top half mile of the oceans.  We are beginning to witness the consequences. 
            When oceans get too warm, the symbiotic plankton in corals fail to perform and get rejected.  If oceans cool quickly enough, coral can recover; if not, they die, leaving bleached white skeletons.  In 2016, persistent warming killed more than a quarter of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.  Much of the rest of the world's coral, which support a quarter of ocean life and feeds billions of humans, was also affected.  Along our coast, warmer water has killed urchin predators, and the resulting urchin population explosion has devastated the kelp, the foundation of the local ocean food chain.
            Warmer oceans affect Arctic sea ice.  In November 2017, the temperature at the North pole was just below freezing, 40-50° warmer than usual.  Arctic ice normally lasts many seasons, getting thicker as wind crunches the sheets into dense ridges, which can last through the summer.  Now most of the sea ice is one year ice, which melts more quickly during the summer.  Much of the Arctic is ice free in late summer, and transpolar shipping has increased.  As summer water temperatures increase, there is concern about a catastrophic release of seafloor methane, which could produce a sharp temperature spike over a decade.
            Arctic warming is contributing to the slowing of the Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC), a global ocean circulation system which includes the Gulf Stream.  The MOC is driven by a down welling of cold, dense, salty water flowing from the Arctic basin south of Iceland.  With a warming planet, the entire surface of Greenland is melting in summer, adding massive amounts of fresh water, which is less dense than salty water.  This fresh water infusion, and the general warming of the Arctic, has diminished the MOC down welling rate by 15% over the last half century.  The geologic record shows the MOC has stalled in the past, which created a radical change in world climate.  Europe was much colder than now.
            At the south pole, the warming ocean is destabilizing Antarctic glaciers.  These glaciers flow down to the sea and ground on the ocean floor miles off shore, impeding further downward ice flow.  Warmer water is melting them from below, eroding the grounding line, and speeding the flow of ice off the land.  Unlike Arctic ice melt, Antarctic ice melt raises sea level, as does ice melting off of Greenland.  In addition, warmer water expands, further contributing to sea level rise.
            Miami is spending over $400 million dealing with "persistent sunny day flooding".  Norfolk, Virginia, home to the world's largest naval base, is facing similar expenditures.  Republicans ignore this information, concerned that acknowledging climate change would lead to increased government regulations.  However, they seem content with corporations regulating everything, which is why we are in this mess.  Oil companies knew in the 70s that consumption of their product would endanger the entire planet, and hid the evidence to maximize their profits.  If they had been good planetary citizens then, there would be no need for government action now.